No. 259 Mickey Lolich (Number 58 Pitcher)

Mickey Lolich is mainly remembered today for winning three games in the 1968 World Series. Since it was only the second World Series I followed this made quite an impression on me. One thing I remember is the best team or player doesn’t always win. Bob Gibson was the best pitcher in the series and pitched great. Some bad breaks happened to Gibson in the Cardinals in the 7th inning and the Tigers scored 3 runs.

Lolich pitched great in game 7, holding the Cardinals to one run which scored after the Tigers had a 4-0 lead. This was more impressive as he did it on two days rest. His games scores for the series were 78, 64 and 74. Not great, but consistent and what the Tigers needed. One thing not much noted in Lolich gave up three runs in the first inning of game 5 and then pitched 8 scoreless innings. Then he started game 7 with 8 scoreless innings. Very impressive, 16 consecutive scoreless innings in the World Series.

What isn’t known as much in in the playoff series against the Oakland A’s in 1972, but had 0 wins in one loss in a low scoring series between the two squads. Lolich and the Tigers, played 5 tough games against the heavily favorite Oakland A’s, after barely beating out the Red Sox for the division title.

In game 1 Lolich and Catfish Hunter pitched well, and the score was 1-1 after 8. In the ninth Hunter was relived after a leadoff double, but the Tigers couldn’t get the run across. Lolich pitched a scoreless 9th and 10th. Al Kaline homered in the top of the 10th to put the Tigers up 2-1. However, Lolich now tired gave up two singles to start the ending. Those two later scored giving the A’s the victory. Oakland won game 2 with a shutout, but Detroit came back and won game 3 with a shutout.

Lolich and Hunter again started game 4. It was an eerie similar game. It was tied 1-1 after 7. Hunter was relieved in the bottom of the eighth with no change in score. Lolich pitched a scoreless ninth. With two out and two on in the ninth manager Billy Martin pinch hit for Lolich with Willie Horton. Horton flew out.

Chuck Seelbach the Tigers relief ace came in, after all it was an elimination game for the Tigers. Seelbach gave up two runs and was relieved by John Hiller. However, Detroit used three singles, two walks a fielders choice, a wild pitch and no outs to score three runs to win in the bottom of the ninth.

The next day the A’s won 2-1.

What even less people know is how great Mickey Lolich pitched to end the season with a tight race with the Red Sox. With 8 games to go the Tigers were 1 game behind the Red Sox. Lolich was the starter that day for the Tigers. He beat the Red Sox with a complete game allowing 1 run for a 7-1 victory.

Next on four days rest Lolich pitched against the Yankees. Detroit was a half game back and the Yankees were 3.5 games back barely in contention behind the Red Sox. The game went 12 innings and Lolich pitched a complete game. The score was 2-2 after 9 and after 10 and after 11. Finally, Mickey displayed a crack giving up a homer to Roy White, my 303rd best player and the Yankees won 3-2.

However, the Tigers won their next three games and Boston came to town with a half-game lead. Meanwhile the Yankees had faded away. This was a strike year, and the teams were playing a different number of games from each other. So, whoever won 2 out of 3 would win the division. Mickey Lolich got the start in the first game and pitched excellently. He gave up 1 run and 15 for a 4-1 victory despite allowing 13 baserunners including two hits batsmen. The next day Detroit won the division with a 3-1 victory.

I remember Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich had a controversy after the 1969 all-star game. From what I remember Denny McLain flew his plane to the all-star game in Washington DC. Apparently, he flew Mickey Lolich to the game and was to fly them back for their next game.

However, McLain pitched the fourth inning and he inning and left soon after leaving Mickey Lolich behind. McLain then proceeded to fly off leaving Mickey who didn’t get into the game behind. Mickey wasn’t happy to say the least.

Well, the guys from Bill James Online gave me more information. I was about two-thirds correct. One thing I didn’t remember was Lolich also had brought his wife along. To me stranding a lady is even worse.

McLain was supposed to start the All-Star game and was late. So now a poor pitcher had to substitute for McLain at the last moment. No wonder the starter Mel Stottlemyre gave up 3 runs in 2 innings. McLain pitched the fourth and gave up 1 run. Then he told All Star and Detroit manager Mayo Smith he had to fly back to Detroit for a dentist appointment and left stranding Mickey and his wife.

Later when asked about it McLain said he wasn’t running a taxi service. No one took his side. Not surprisingly he had problems and was suspended 3 times from baseball in 1970. Mickey Lolich had a great career, McLain had a great start to his career, but ended up the 888th best player on my list.



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